My personal experience with the anti-globalization/antiwar mobilizations at the turn of the century, as well as my observation of the women’s march on Washington has taught me one or two things about gathering a few hundred thousand folks at one spot to make a political point.
Effective mass mobilization is a result of, not the end goal of effective organizing. Much as I don’t eat in order to shit, I do not organize to bring about a culminating cinematic event.
Effective mass mobilizations of the past were the outgrowth years of militant localized struggles, where organizers worked within the grass roots, cultivating militant actions, general awareness and testing tactics that can be taken to other areas. Effective national organizers need to be able to travel to locals to give advice, support, and observe what works and what doesn’t in order to take lessons learned to fights in other parts of the country. They also need to be honing messaging to build popular support.
Mass mobilizations without the effective incorporation of (or at least real threat of) militant direct action do not get the attention of elites. Until we have a vast base of angry people (much much larger than current DSA membership) who are willing to shut down the status quo, if even only temporarily, then the MoW action will indeed be just a part of the fabric of every day life in DC. A mass mobilization set for a year from now will heavily depend on outside coalition partners who will bring with them their own expectations and goals and willingness to disrupt Washington DC. Already at our own local healthcare working group meetings the issue of conflicting militancy vs cultivating powerful individual allies has potentially curtailed more radical action. When groups like Planned Parenthood in California are actively working against our end goal of Single Payer at the state level, then we know we will have a big problem with such coalition partners. While recently social media has proven incredibly effective on getting people onto the street when the national political crisis feels acute, it is the face to face organizing, the “hard work” that builds movements. Much as a tree growing in sand blows over at the first strong gale, we must avoid the mistake of seeing huge crowds of people as a substantial, committed base of support.
To the concrete conditions of our current political moment.
1-Barring a significant and radical shift in messaging the democrats will likely lose or fail to make significant gains in the house in 2018
2-The neoliberal wing of the party is already gearing up to fend off a left wing populist insurgency for 2020, and may be successful again
3- We could see a trump victory in 2020 which again without left-populist gains in congress -under whatever party or form, will result in the same legislative paralysis we see now.
We must remember that the Mass demonstration is for two audiences, the powerful, whom we want to fear us, and our base, whom we want to hearten. An action now, when there is zero chance of single payer even coming up for debate won’t even have the first audience. If we jump into Mass mobilization as a goal, as opposed to the logical end point of a nationwide campaign that has millions of adherents and politicians either actively friendly or afraid of the consequences of being seen to be in opposition to us will result in one of two outcomes: 1) a well attended event/march/rally, that results in nothing, which leads to despair or 2) a poorly attended event/march/rally that is ignored and is therefore actively harmful to our national organizing by publicly exposing our weakness.